The first single from his album is "Grown Men Don't Cry" released in March 2001 and was written by Tom Douglas and Steve Seskin. "Angry All the Time", the second single, was originally recorded by its writer, Bruce Robison, on his 1996 self-titled album. "The Cowboy in Me" is the third single, and it reached Number One one week after McGraw's duet with Jo Dee Messina, "Bring On the Rain". "Unbroken" became the album's final single in May 2002. "Things Change" is a studio recording of a song which McGraw had previously recorded as a live version, which reached #34 on the country charts in 2000 from unsolicited airplay. Another track from this album is "Telluride". Despite reaching #52, it wasn't officially released as a single. It also appears on Josh Gracin's 2008 album We Weren't Crazy, from which it was released as a single in December 2008. "Angel Boy" was made into a music video, which got some airplay on CMT, but was not released as a single either.
The album reached Number One on the Top Country Albums chart. It additionally peaked at No.2 on the Billboard 200 while breaking the Top 20 in Canada and peaking at No.95 in Australia. The album has since been certified 3× Multi-Platinum by the RIAA for shipments of three million copies in the United States, as well as single platinum for sales in Canada.
About.com gave a "favorable" review and said it would not "disappoint those used to the excellent song selection of Tim's previous releases." Thom Jurek from Allmusic gave it 4 out of 5 stars and noted that Tim "masterfully and consistently flows from one sound style to the next[, yet] his familiar country-pop sound remains evident throughout, especially on the title track, a song about a fast-paced couple yearning to kick back and relax in the country (no one said the themes would be original)." While Billboard magazine,Plugged In, and Rolling Stone all gave it positive and favorable reviews, David Brown from Entertainment Weekly gave it a B grade and said "From the eclectic songs he and his coproducers have chosen to the simple fact that his face doesn't appear on the cover for the first time, Set This Circus Down presents itself as an Important Statement, McGraw's career defining work[, though] McGraw doesn't write any of his material" when saying that the album "feels conceptual, almost autobiographical." John "weathered old reviewer" Hanson from Sputnikmusic gave it a 2.5 average after saying "Set This Circus Down, in [his] eyes his best album, shows the time where he was at both the least level of cheese, but had not yet 'sold out,' or sold out as much as you can in the Country scene."
^ abTim McGraw in Australian albums chart: Everywhere, Live Like You Were Dying, Let it Go, Southern Voice, Limited Edition: Greatest Hits Volumes 1, 2 & 3 and Emotional Traffic"Australian Charts > Tim McGraw". australian-charts.com, Hung Medien. Retrieved February 10, 2012.